In Andrew Lytle’s first book, BEDFORD FORREST AND HIS CRITTER COMPANY, General Forrest became, in Lytle’s hands, the symbol of the Mississippian South and its best illumination, next to Lytle’s “The Hind Tit,” his essay in I’LL TAKE MY STAND, the manifesto of the Southern agrarians. The passionate portrait of primal simplicity in both works is fascinating and frustrating; the same reaction meets most of Lytle’s work—certainly THE VELVET HORN—and is probably the truest measure of the novelist.
The novel, dedicated to John Crowe Ransom, joins a distinguished company of works acknowledging his influence, and it is this agrarian viewpoint which both attracts and repels in the novel. The lyrical description of the lost simplicity of the Garden summons up the old Adam in the reader, only to make the reader reject the vanished vision when he raises his eyes from the page. In this novel, as in Faulkner’s “The Bear,” the Garden is the unspoiled forest, here the Wilderness and specifically the Peaks of Laurel. It comes equipped with game, cover, and water, even with a Cooperesque secret entrance through a waterfall; but this is only the starting point of the novel, the setting for the story of the Cropleigh brothers and their sister Julia which precipitates years later the events that affect Julia’s son, Lucius, the apparent hero. The agrarian point of view is in the custody of the most impressive character,...
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